This tiny island floats alone almost 60km north of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Part of the Aeolian volcanic chain, the land mass is actually the tip of a submerged volcano. Blazing pink-and-red hibiscus flowers and prickly green cacti punctuate the island's black, volcanic-rock. Ustica's shoreline is littered with dramatic grottoes and the surrounding waters – protected within Area Marina Protetta Isola di Ustica (Island of Ustica Protected Marine Area) – are kept sparkling and clean by an Atlantic current, resulting in an underwater wonderland of fish and coral. Indeed, the reserve is host to half of the marine species present in Mediterranean waters.
Palermitans flock here in July and August, so consider visiting in June and September to enjoy the beautiful coastline and grottoes without the crowds. Note that between October and Easter most of the island's services close down during the week and ferry services from the mainland can be cancelled in bad weather.